The excitement of travel and the newness of the environment you are in make it easy to become careless or distracted. While there is no guaranteed way to eliminate risk when traveling, the following "top ten" list of tips can help increase your chances for an incident-free trip.
- Read up on the customs and politics of every country you plan to visit. The US State Department provides up-to-date information on every country, and world news sections of major metropolitan newspapers can keep you up-to-date on current events. Or see their website travel.state.gov -- and look under 'Travel Security Information.'
- Talk to international students from the places you intend to visit before you go. Their insights will prove very helpful.
- Protect your valuable documents. Carry these in a money belt or neck wallet under you clothes at all times.
- Before leaving on your trip, make two sets of copies of all your important documents. Take a set with you, but be sure to keep it separate from the actual documents. Leave one set with a friend or family member back home. If the worst should happen, having access to these will make getting your trip back on track much easier and faster. Make sure you get a police report documenting any losses.
- Never leave your pack unattended. Thieves are quick and devious, and it takes only a moment for one to ruin your trip. Always have a hand or foot in a loop or strap of your backpack when you put it down, to avoid having it snatched away while you're not looking. This holds true no matter where you are: in a hotel, at the train station, on the train or bus, at a restaurant, or resting in a park.
- Avoid illegal drugs You are subject to the laws of the country in which you are traveling. Hundreds of American travelers end up in foreign jails each year as a result of carrying, using, or being suspected of using drugs. There is little the American embassy can do on your behalf in these cases, and the laws in many countries are more severe than at home.
- Avoid demonstrations, especially in politically volatile countries. What appears peaceful can suddenly change into a dangerous situation, and you could become caught in the middle.
- Travel with a companion at night and stay in populated, well-trafficked areas. Be especially cautious if you have been drinking; avoid arguments and don't wander the streets late at night.
- Be aware at all times of your surroundings. This is not paranoia--it's good common sense. You know what feels comfortable and what doesn't. If your instincts tell you a situations uncomfortable, trust them and move along.
- Stay healthy by eating well and getting sufficient rest. If you become ill, get proper care. Don't be afraid to visit a doctor or hospital because you don't speak the local language. Usually someone who speaks English will be available to help you.
- It isn't better, it isn't worse, it's just different.
- Learn to accept, not expect.
- Don't be afraid to ask.
- Budget your money.
- Set up how and when you'll communicate with your family.
- Pack Practical. Only take what you really need.
- Be flexible.
- Be respectful.
- Take lots of pictures and keep a journal.
- Don't worry about missing what's going on back home!
- Have a great trip!
Prepare for the Experience of Your Life!